2241 Lincoln Avenue, dubuque

(563) 557-9545

Status: Former Residence; Historic Site; Living Museum; Open Seasonally



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By <a rel="nofollow" class="external text" href="">Dirk</a> - <a rel="nofollow" class="external free" href=""></a>, CC BY 2.0Link


This house was built for Mathias Ham – one of Dubuque’s first entrepreneurs – between 1839 and 1857. The house was designed by the same person who designed the State Capitols in Springfield, Illinois and Iowa City, Iowa.

Ham made his fortune by mining lead as well as forestry, agriculture and shipping.

He originally settled here in a very small stone cabin but as his wealth increased so did the house; hence the number of years it took to fully build the house.

In 1837 he married Zerelda Marklin who had 6 children with him. Unfortunately, Zerelda would pass away in 1856 shortly before the house was completed. Ham was now left with a 23 room mansion and no wife.

He remarried – apparently, very quickly – to Margaret Mclean who bore him 2 more kids.

Ham even built an observation tower on the house so he could watch his shipping pass by on the river. This tower allowed him to see the actions of pirates on the river which led to their arrest and a swearing of revenge against the family.

Margaret passed away in 1874 and then Hall himself in 1899.

Two of his daughters took over the house after Hall passed; May and Sarah.

After Sarah died May became, some would say paranoid, about the pirates returning for revenge. Of course, all of the ones who were arrested were much too dead to be going after anyone.

One night when someone did enter the house May shot them through her bedroom door. The intruder was found quite dead on the beach the next day and was an actual pirate.

May sold the house to the city in 1912 who would first use the house as the office for the Superintendent of the Parks Department. In 1964 the house was converted into a museum.

The area is now owned by the National Mississippi River Museum and Aquarium and has been restored back to the Antebellum – between the War of 1812 and the Civil War – Period and functions as a living museum.

There a one room schoolhouse – that was moved onto the site – and a replica mine shaft on site as well.


Paranormal Activity

This location is often referred to as a “textbook haunting”. But what exactly does that mean?

Well, for one, it means the house is very active.

Strangely no one has ever seen an apparition or a shadow figure in this house.

Blasts of unexplained freezing air rush through the house. There are also cold spots throughout the house especially in the tower where Ham sat and watched the river and in Sarah’s old bedroom.

A phantom light is often seen at night in the house moving from window to window. Many believe this is the pirate May killed.

There are numerous electrical disturbances in the house. Many of the lights flicker despite numerous checks by electricians. Other lights refuse to be turned off and literally employees have to unscrew an old school fuse to get them to go out.

Objects have been seen moving on their own with no living person near them. Things also frequently disappear only to be found in another room.

An upstairs window that always locked when everyone leaves for the night is sometimes found unlocked and wide open in the morning.

There is an organ in the house that no one has been able to make work since the house turned into a museum until one day it just started up when an employee tried to turn off the porch light; which is one of those lights and refuses to obey it’s switch. People have also heard organ music coming out of the electrical sockets.

Phantom footsteps are common as is the sound of a chair scraping as its pushed back from the table.

Many people have heard the sound of woman whispering in the house.